Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Eastern European Affairs (Bohlen) to the Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews)
Mr. Matthews: Mr. Andre Visson of the Herald Tribune said while in New York he had lunch with Pravdin,78 the head of the Tass79 Agency. During the conversation, Pravdin laid considerable emphasis on the importance of the Greek Orthodox Church in Soviet policies after the war, in the Balkans and Near East, stating that this factor was very often overlooked by American commentators. Pravdin said that, for the first time, there would be a well-organized dynamic and state-controlled Orthodox Church which would have great influence throughout the Balkans and the Near East; that the Soviet Government, while it did not intend to proselyte for the Greek Orthodox religion, would nevertheless back the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek Orthodox Christians wherever they were; for this reason, he doubted very much whether the Vatican would respond to Stalin’s overture made through Father Orlemanski since the Vatican, in contrast to certain Catholic clergy in this country, was too well informed to look upon the Soviet Union as a center of Atheistic communism which Pravdin said belonged to the realm of the past. In his opinion, therefore, the Vatican is sufficiently intelligent to see in the Soviet backing of the Greek Orthodox Church a much greater threat to Catholicism than Atheistic communism had ever been. He added that it was necessary to have some force to combat the Vatican, and Protestantism could not do this since it was too divided within itself, and that the only force capable of doing so was the Greek Orthodox Church controlled by the Soviet Government.
In reply to Mr. Visson’s question in regard to Zionism, Pravdin stated that since there were, at the most, 800,000 Jews in the Near East as against many millions of Arabs, the Soviet Government as realists would take cognizance of this difference in strength. Mr. Visson said that Pravdin made it quite clear in saying this; that the Soviet Government would be more inclined to work with the Arabs than with the Zionists.